Can I Commit To The Precepts If I Sometimes Eat Meat & Drink Alcohol?

Question: As I work in the food and beverage industry, I occasionally have to eat meat and drink wine when doing food tasting. Beyond work, I do not do these. Is it alright for me to commit to the Five Precepts then?

Answer: As the first of the Five Precepts is to abstain from killing, it does not require vegetarianism or veganism. That said, it is definitely best to be a Maha-Vegan (which is ‘Mahayana veganism’ in short), whether committed to the Five Precepts or not. Maha-Veganism as taught by the Buddha is defined at https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2016/10/how-should-all-aspiring-for-buddhahood-eat-and-drink (Note: The Second Precept is to abstain from stealing, the third from sexual misconduct, the fourth from lying, and the fifth from consuming of intoxicants.)

It is the Bodhisattva Precepts (such as those in the Brahma Net Sutra) that require non-eating of animals. That said, similarly, it is definitely best to be a Maha-Vegan, whether committed to the Bodhisattva Precepts or not. Drinking of alcohol, however, breaks the fifth of the Five Precepts, and breaks a Bodhisattva Precept too, as can be seen at https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2016/08/why-avoidance-of-alcohol-is-so-important This is so even if there is no intoxication, as explained at https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2014/09/should-you-avoid-intoxicants-or-intoxication

As taught by the Buddha on Right Livelihood in the Noble Eightfold Path, our occupations, in essence, should not link to the cause of sentient beings’ suffering. As the work of food tasting promotes meat-eating and drinking of alcohol, which can lead to more demand for killing of animals and more intoxication of human beings, it is good to do away with this aspect of your work, or even change your job if needed. This will enable you to commit to the Five Precepts fully, which are meant to be for all of your life, 24/7; not just after work hours. That said, even if you cannot change your job immediately, since the law of karma continues operating, you should still do your best to live up to as many precepts as you can, as fully as possible.

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